with Bethan Gray
Translating a fifty-year-old-whisky into a luxurious collectible bottle is a complex task. Heritage, craft, technique and taste all need to mingle in one perfect expression of expertise. And with our Master Distiller Alan Winchester set for retirement, his final batch, The Winchester Collection Vintage 1967, is no ordinary fifty-year-old-whisky. It’s a whisky which is the culmination of his extraordinary career.
Every detail of its presentation needed to reflect the rare talent and history contained in each bottle. And so, The Glenlivet’s first ever packaging and bottle design collaboration was conceived. We set out to pair two exceptional talents together, seeking the rare imagination that could complement Alan’s palate.
Enter critically-acclaimed designer Bethan Gray. Recipient of four Elle Decoration British Design Awards, her work has been celebrated in Paris, London, New York, Milan and Dubai. With a love of semi-precious materials and sensual patterns, her pieces are influenced by her far-flung travels and fascination with Islamic art and craft . Effortlessly referencing the classical while reinventing the contemporary, Bethan’s unique talent made her the perfect designer for the task. She would create the modern emblem that would house Alan’s fifty-year-old whisky.
By rare coincidence, Bethan’s career has a unique tie to The Glenlivet. Though she’s descended from an ancient Rajasthani clan which journeyed across Persia and Asia before eventually settling in Wales , her grandfather encouraged her creativity by carving objects out of solid wood for her as a child . He was a Research Forester in Cairngorms, home of The Glenlivet.
Embarking on a nostalgic journey back to the Glen with Master Distiller Alan Winchester, Bethan found herself captivated by its enigmatic natural beauty. The twisting torrents of the Spey and its swirling layers of mist inspired a unique reimagining of her iconic Dhow pattern, and the foundations of the Vintage 1967 bottle were laid.
Setting out to tell the ancient story of The Glenlivet through her craft, Bethan lovingly poured the magic and exactitude of our whisky-making process into each handmade bottle. Under her meticulous eye, each limited-edition piece has been glass blown by master glassblower Brodie Nairn, creating an sombre effect which symbolises the ageing process of the precious liquid inside. Hand cut and displayed in a hand-stained birds-eye maple case, solid copper has been overlaid, a nod to The Glenlivet’s copper stills. Finally, each piece is inlaid with delicate mother-of-pearl, inspired by the gleaming freshwater mussel shells of the Spey River.
Our collaboration didn’t end there. In a unique celebration of craft, Bethan teamed up with The Glenlivet to create The Glenlivet Bar – a bespoke experience for the London Design Festival’s design junction. Serving a specially created menu of food and whisky cocktails, Bethan’s brass and marble bar, developed using a specialist method to inlay solid brass into marble, was centre stage.
Bethan’s opulent and sensual reimagining of The Winchester Collection Vintage 1967 into unique collectible pieces has been instrumental in commemorating our Master Distiller’s final batch. This International Women’s Day, we raise a dram to her rare talent, and all the female makers and creators who enrich our world.